Protecting Our Pollinators

Every garden requires pollinators, and bees are among the finest. Without them there would be limited flowers and far fewer fruits and vegetables. Did you know that about 30 percent of the food we eat depends on the pollination of bees, including onions, cashews, coffee, carrots, chocolate and vanilla? If we don’t protect these prolific pollinators, our landscapes, gardens and diets will be irrevocably changed.

About Bees

Although there are many bees that are great pollinators, like carpenter, mining, sweat and cellophane bees, some of the most well known and easily identified bees are the honeybee and bumblebee. Both of these bees live in social colonies and are cavity nesters. Because these bees are active all summer long, they require a constant supply of floral nectar close to their hive and they thrive in flower gardens, orchards and other areas with abundant blooms.

Unfortunately, both these types of bees – along with many others – are disappearing rapidly, and two key threats are to blame.

  • Habitat Loss: As more natural habitat is lost to development, there are fewer nesting locations and inadequate food supplies for bees. While meadows developed into resorts and parks disappearing for strip malls are obvious examples of development, other less visible developments that can hurt bees include widespread use of flower cultivars that do not produce adequate nectar, eliminating critical bee food sources.
  • Pesticide Drift: Widespread, abundant spraying of pesticides to protect crops, lawns and parks can inadvertently hurt bees. Stronger pesticides can kill bees directly, while less potent toxins can contaminate nectar and will gradually build up to fatal levels in bees’ systems. Even if pesticides are not sprayed in areas where bees are abundant, high level spraying can easily be spread by wind patterns into critical bee habitats.

Inviting Bees to Your Garden

Fortunately, it is easy to bring more bees to your garden and encourage healthy bee populations. To support local bees…

  • Planting a variety of flowers that will bloom throughout the entire summer to provide ongoing food supplies.
  • Opt for native flower varieties that will be more easily recognized and used by bees, instead of introduced flowers that are less familiar.
  • Eliminate chemical use in your yard, as much as possible, including on your lawn, garden and trees, especially while plants are in flower.
  • Provide bees a safe place for shelter and to lay their eggs. A wood pile is suitable, or you can invest in a specialized bee house.
  • Make sure that there is an available water source for your bees. A bird bath or any simple water basin works just fine.

Want to bring bees to your yard and help them feel at home? Start with this list of native plants bees love, and ask our experts for more tips about keeping your lawn and garden bee-friendly!

Native Plants That Attract Bees

  • Apple (Malus)
  • Aster (Aster)
  • Blackberry & Raspberry (Rubis)
  • Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia)
  • Blueberries (Vaccinium)
  • Currant (Ribes)
  • Elder (Sambucus)
  • Goldenrod (Solidago)
  • Highbush Cranberry (Viburnum)
  • Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium)
  • Lupine (Lupinus)
  • Penstemon (Penstemon)
  • Purple Coneflower (Echinacea)
  • Redbud (Cercis)
  • Rhododendron (Rhododendron)
  • Sage (Salvia)
  • Stonecrop (Sedum)
  • Sunflower (Helianthus)
  • Willow (Salix)

 

Making a Terrarium

Hold onto your gardening hats, folks! Remember terrariums? A new trend revitalizing this old style is now better than ever. Creating a theme for your terrarium is easier too, with the all the miniatures now available. Remember those skinny-necked bottles and what a hassle they were? New container styles make terrariums easier to plant, simple to maintain and more beautiful in your home.

Style

What is your terrarium’s style? Tropical with ferns, arid with cacti or beach-like with tiny grasses, sand and water-like pebbles? Will you have figures such as fairies or gnomes? To choose the plants, consider the lighting where you plan to place the terrarium. If your gnome home is to be in the corner, consider using a cute fluorescent light or similar illumination to help keep your terrarium’s plants healthy and thriving.

Container Shape and Size

Choose your container and ensure it has enough room for your completed dream. Clear glass allows views of different layers of sand, soil and top dressing, giving your terrarium extra depth. Container shapes include hanging, footed, cylindrical, spherical, even leaning. Multi-sided geometric shapes are popular, as are smooth, curved shapes with a natural flow. If your garden includes tropical plants, consider a container with a smaller opening or a lid to increase humidity for healthier plants.

Don’t forget to consider size – tiny terrariums with just a plant or two are popular and can be hung like ornaments or make great gifts, while larger containers can create an entire microcosm and unique environment for a stunning display.

How to Plant

Planting a terrarium takes a little extra care, but is no more difficult than planting any houseplant.

  1. Put an inch or two of small gravel, pebbles or expanded clay pellets into the container, providing a drainage base. Mixing in several tablespoons of horticultural charcoal prevents odors. If the container is large enough, layer other colors or sizes of pebbles or sands to create visual interest when viewed from the side.
  2. Soil goes in next. Many plants grow well in light soils mixed with peat moss and vermiculite or perlite. Moistened coir is another option. Alternatively, consider special prepared soil mixes for African violets, succulents or cacti.
  3. Create a landscape plan by first arranging the plants on the tabletop to determine where they will be placed in the container, taking into account how the plants may touch the sides or top of the container.
  4. Plant the largest plant first. Dig a small hole, place the plant, and firmly tamp the soil around it. This is very important to stabilize the plants and remove air pockets. If the space is tight, smaller plants may be able to help stabilize larger plants.
  5. After placing the plants, you may want to top-dress with decorative pebbles or bark. Sand looks great around cacti. This is also the time to place fairies, cottages, twigs, larger stones, marbles and other decorative items in your terrarium to create the desired theme.
  6. When everything looks good (look at it from all sides and angles), use a small artist brush to clean any loose dirt or sand away from the sides and leaves.
  7. Use a mister to water the plants. Because the container acts as a small biosphere and much of the moisture is recycled, a little water lasts for quite awhile. Do not overwater your terrarium or the plants may rot, and replacing them can be a challenge.

Place your terrarium in its new location and enjoy its beauty and your accomplishment!

Creating a Meditation Space in Your Garden

Gardening can be a relaxing, therapeutic hobby as you nurture seedlings, encourage growth and bring your harvest to fruition. But if you just want to take a moment to breathe, reflect and center yourself, it isn’t necessary to get out the garden clogs, sharpen your hand tools or get dirt under your fingernails. Creating a peaceful meditation space in your garden is easy, and can turn any garden into your own private sanctuary.

The Need for Peace

As our lives get ever busier with hectic schedules and cramped appointments, it may seem impossible to have any time for thoughtful reflection or meditation. Furthermore, smaller living spaces and more crowded urban areas can make it seem equally impossible to have any space for solitary peace. Without the ability to relax, we’re faced with skyrocketing stress in our lives, along with a host of different health problems such as tension headaches, high blood pressure, depression, obesity and more. More and more studies, however, are demonstrating that time spent in nature is beneficial for reducing stress and tension, and there’s no better place to easily enjoy nature than in your own garden.

Your Peaceful Purpose

Before creating your meditation space, you need to plan what you want to use it for in order to ensure you have enough room and all the right touches for your peaceful retreat. Meditation can mean something different to everyone – you might prefer a place for quiet, contemplative prayer, or you could be interested in an outdoor space for yoga practice. For some people, a restful space for coloring or painting is their ideal meditation spot, while others may want a natural niche for reading or journaling. Creating or listening to music may be part of your meditation practice, or even a cozy spot for an outdoor nap. Whatever means peace and relaxation to you, it can be incorporated into your garden.

Eliminating Distractions

Once you know how you will use a meditation space in your garden, it is essential to eliminate other distractions and interruptions from that space. Unwanted noises, glaring streetlights, unsavory sights and even unpleasant smells can interrupt meditation and disrupt your relaxation, but it is easy to plan your gardening to eliminate those difficulties. For example, a green wall or trellis can be used to block an unsightly view, and the plants on it will help muffle noises. You could also consider a small fountain for the soothing tinkle of running water to block traffic or neighborhood noises. Climbing, clinging vines can be used to cover structures with greenery to increase the natural feel of the space. Opt for arbors or pergolas that can help create comfortable shade and define the space without completely blocking sunlight, and consider fragrant flowers nearby if unwanted aromas are invading your garden.

Adding Joy to Your Garden Space

Once your meditation area is structured and distractions are minimized, it is time to add your own personal joy into the space. What brings joy to the space will vary from garden to garden and even from season to season, but it should be a personal choice and something that helps draw you into the space. Consider…

  • Seating In order to enjoy your meditation space, you will need a place to sit and relax within it. This may be a comfortable bench, a cozy chaise lounge, a soothing hammock or any other type of seating. A chair-sized boulder can be a natural alternative, or you may opt for a more whimsical swing to add a dash of fun to your personal space.
  • Sights You’ve taken steps to block sights you don’t want to see in your garden, but a good meditation space will also include sights you want to look at. A bird feeder or bird bath can invite beautiful feathered friends to share your space, or you might prefer a lovely piece of garden art, a gazing ball, plants in your favorite colors or even unique mulch or paving stones in a therapeutic pattern.
  • Sounds Pleasant sounds can help add a focal point to your meditation space, allowing you to focus on unique tones to help center yourself. A wind chime, waterfall fountain or even a way to bring your favorite music outdoors can be a wonderful addition to a peaceful meditation space.
  • Water Water can serve several purposes in a meditation space. Flowing or splashing water provides natural white noise, and the sparkles of the water are ideal for meditative gazing or creating soothing reflections. Consider different aquatic options, such as a small stream or brook, a weeping rock, a fountain or even a reflecting pool. You can even opt for a small pond for goldfish or koi if you desire.

Above all, remember that there are no strict rules for creating your personal meditation space. Whatever brings you peace and joy can be part of your design, and it can change as your tastes and preferences change. Garden meditation spaces can vary as much as any other part of the garden, but each one helps nurture our green spirits.

Horticulture Careers

Horticulture is the art, technology, business and science of plants. It is the food we eat, the landscapes we live and play in, the environments we thrive in. It is the business of managing and using what we grow, while maintaining the health of our soil, air, and water, and the well-being of our children, our communities, and our world. In short – it’s all about plants! Check out career paths here! 

Want to learn more about plants? Consider joining our Team this season! Hort training and development is provided by our knowledgeable Leadership Team. To schedule an interview, click on over to fill out our employment application.

The Healing Power of Plants

March 15, 2018

Want to shorten the stay in the hospital and heal faster? Research shows plants can help people do that.

According to the third of four #PlantsDoThat Inside infographics produced by the National Initiative for Consumer Horticulture (NICH), plants are good for our health.

“Patients spend less time in recovery and go home faster when there are plants in the room,” says Dr. Charles Hall, Ellison Chair, Texas A&M. The infographic series was developed by NICH from a scientific literature review evidence base developed by Dr. Hall and his students.

#PlantsDoThat Inside “Where We Heal” Infographic

The #PlantsDoThat Inside Where We Heal infographic shows that plants in rooms help people heal faster. That is true whether or not there are plants present in the room, viewed through the window, or on the wall in a picture. Other positive effects of plants to help us heal include:

  • Reducing stress and lowering blood pressure;
  • Helping new breast cancer patients better tolerate their diagnosis and treatment; and
  • Reducing the number of pain relievers taken after surgery.

“For centuries we have known that Nature is a great healer. Now we have the science to back it up,” says Debbie Hamrick, NICH Economic Committee chair. “These free infographics are great tools to raise awareness of the power of plants for our health and wellness.”

Hospitals, doctors, businesses, growers, retailers, teachers, extension agents and interiorscape professionals should use the infographics as promotional and educational materials and upload them to social media.

#PlantsDoThat Inside “Where We Heal” Authors, References, and Credits

#PlantsDoThat Inside Where We Heal is part of a series of four brightly colored infographics, designed by Jennifer Gray, AmericanHort, and Horticultural Research Institute. They are free and can be downloaded from NICH’s websiteconsumerhort.org/plantsdothat.

The benefits of consumer horticulture are spotlighted in the first NICH infographic titled “#PlantsDoThat, Horticulture: The Art, Science, & Business of Plants.” The infographic illustrates how consumer horticulture contributes $196 billion to the U.S. economy and creates more than 2 million jobs.

NICH is a consortium of industry leaders who are promoting the benefits and value of horticulture. NICH brings together academia, government, industry, and nonprofits to cultivate the growth and development of a healthy world through landscapes, gardens, and plants – indoors and out, and to get 90 percent of U.S. households gardening by 2025.

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